Thought Leader Series: Spring Fling: Recipe Ideas Using Seasonal Ingredients

Diane Balch lives in a rural horse town and is passionate about simple living and eating, as seen in her blog at SimpleLivingEating.com. Before there was The Hunger Games, there was the "hunger gap." In temperate climates, early spring...

Using seasonal ingredients

Diane Balch lives in a rural horse town and is passionate about simple living and eating, as seen in her blog at SimpleLivingEating.com.

Before there was The Hunger Games, there was the "hunger gap." In temperate climates, early spring was a time when stores of potatoes and cabbage ran out and preserved vegetables and fruits were in short supply. People may have sprouted some broccoli and rhubarb in their root cellars, a few new potatoes may be starting to grow, but spring greens such as asparagus, peas and spinach would not sprout until May or June.

With our global food market, we are barely aware of the transition from winter to spring fruits and vegetables, except we may notice that strawberries and asparagus are a lot cheaper to buy in the spring. You should strive to buy the most local and seasonal produce available; it will cost less and be healthier for you because it hasn't been sitting on a shelf for a long period of time, losing its nutrients.

Here are a few of the best fruits and vegetables to sink your teeth into this spring, along with some ideas on how to prepare them.

Asparagus

Seasonal ingredients

Probably the most exciting vegetable of the spring is asparagus. Those who love it can't get enough it this time of year. Green is the most common variation, but try the milder purple and white if you see them in your market. Asparagus can be grilled on a warm day, roasted on a rainy one, boiled in a hurry and braised if you have time on a Sunday afternoon. Try these three asparagus dishes on a Meatless Monday.

Strawberries

Seasonal ingredients

Strawberries are the star fruit of spring. There is nothing quite like the taste of a fresh, in-season strawberry. You don't need to sugar or cook strawberries when they are this fresh. Top cereal with them in the morning. Add them to your lunchtime salad. They are delicious with greens, almonds and a sprinkle of cheese. Chop some up and maybe add a little bit of honey to make a sauce, and dollop them over pound cake or a fresh biscuit. Add a little bit of whipped cream and you are in strawberry heaven.

Broccoli

Seasonal ingredients

Broccoli is one of the first vegetables to sprout in the springtime. It is also one of the most versatile vegetables. It can be eaten raw with an onion dip; boiled with a little butter, making a terrific side dish that goes with any meal; sautéed in olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes, adding a Mediterranean flair to dinner. Roast broccoli with other early spring vegetables like new potatoes and spring onions for the perfect accompaniment to your weekend spring lamb roast. Try this skillet broccoli dish for a workday meal. And don't forget to add leftover broccoli to soup. Broccoli always adds a terrific taste and texture to soups and stews!

Blueberries

Seasonal ingredients

Blueberries arrive around the time strawberries begin to disappear from the market. The timing couldn't be better. Grab a pint and pour them into a pre-made pie crust. You don't have to cook the berries - only the crust. Mix the blueberries with honey or some melted jam to make them into a terrific pie filling. Try them in a tart. Blueberries aren't strictly for dessert; they are wonderful in a green salad too. Try them with some baby spring greens, walnuts and feta cheese for a salad that will satisfy all of your taste buds.

Spring is such a wonderful time because we get to return to eating fresh light foods. There are endless ways to enjoy spring fruits and vegetables. Don't be afraid to explore different cooking techniques when preparing your favorite spring vegetables. Be daring; mix spring fruits together in salads and side dishes. Shake your meals up this spring.

For more cooking ideas, browse our cookbooks selection.